Given the presented projects, we may try to indicate the variegated and complex issues raised by Špela Petrič in Miha Turšič in their research-oriented art practice with the question that seems to motivate these practical attempts. This is the question of the possibilities and ways of establishing a relation to the non-human – be it vegetal, animal or technological other – that would not be based on privileging the “human”. The projects do not focus much on a critique of anthropocentrism; rather, they arise from its very crisis, which is growing deeper in the age of the Anthropocene due to the global economic processes, environmental changes, research in the fields of cognitive, biological and information sciences and technological development.
At the intersection of science, art and design, Petrič and Turšič articulate a relational practice which relies on the possibilities of technological reengineering of the living and its potential for new ways of configuring subjectivity in relation to the non-human. This, in turn, calls for rethinking of established understanding of the “human”, relations between nature and culture, the organic and the synthetic, the biological and the technological, etc. and the norms and hierarchies that are derived from these distinctions. This also opens up the possibility of (re)conceptualising and broadening the scope of subjectivity and developing an ethics and politics that would suit such a post-human perspective. For now, these attempts remain “in vitro” of the institution of contemporary art. Thus they call for a reconsideration of its production formats and their implied relations centred on the human agent and pose the (still unanswered) question of what kind of reengineering would be needed here to be able to become exposed to the risk and the potentials that the process of becoming-other-than-human brings.
The projects Scotopoiesis, Phytoteratology and becoming.a(thing) foreground the exploitation and engineering of the capacities of the involved entities and material processes for hybridisation, inter- and trans-species communication, intercognition, contamination, translation and mutations of meaning. In Fitateratologija, the second project in the series Confronting Vegetal Otherness, in which Petrič explores vegetal principles in an attempt to establish intercognition between plants and humans, sexual reproduction and consanguinity give way to other modes of information transmission and inter-species mixing. Biotechnologically conceived vegetal embryos, informed by the sexual hormones extracted from the artist’s urine, develop a unique morphology. At the intersection of biosemiotics processes, hybrid entities emerge which blur the lines between the vegetal, the human and the technological; The fragile green “monsters” (tératos), kept alive by the technologically mediated concern and care. Make kin, not babies! Insofar as the projects focus on establishing and engineering relations, the question of their “architecture” is also foregrounded. Special attention is paid to designing incubators that make possible the ectogenesis of vegetal mixes. Or, for instance, the mechanics of habiton in the project Naval Gazing as an example of architecture designed for the conditions and dimension of marine space and ecology, which will be eventually adopted by the local population. Voyager/ 140 AU, too, introduces the spatial and temporal perspective beyond the “human measure”. As a digital proto-life algorithmic form that imitates the metabolic loop and is intended for the computer of the space probe Voyager, it puts the question of heritage and the relation between the human and technology in a post-humanist perspective: the technological entity here is not a tool or human extension, but rather emancipated technological artificial life that can exist independently in extraterrestrial conditions. While the exhibition opens with projects that focus on the question of the emancipation of heritage in the form of artificial life in a post-human future, which would not simply be a reproduction of the present, the focus then turns to the attempts at intercognition between the artist and non-human (vegetal) otherness (Scotopoiesis, Phytoteratology). The aforementioned quandary regarding the role of the viewer and the possibility of entering into this “intercognitive artwork” is addressed in the project becoming.a(thing). As a participative semiotic laboratory, it establishes a liminal space of uncertain connections in which both human and non-human actors enter the process of forming and mutations of meaning, the production of sense and nonsense – the process which is not regarded as a human privilege but rather as something “arising from the materiality of everyone involved”.
Curated by: Tjaša Pogačar
14. 10. 2017, 5pm – 8pm, becoming.a(thing), participatory semiotic laboratory
19. 10. 2017, 6pm, guided tour with the curator
26. 10. 2017, 6pm, Domen Ograjenšek: “Art and Its Role in Inter-species Confrontations”, lecture and discussion with Domen Ograjenšek and Maja Burja
Co-production: City of Women and Škuc Gallery. In cooperation with Kapelica Gallery.
Acknowledgements: Scenart, Slavko Glamočanin, Galerija Kapelica, Simon Gmajner
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.
Part of the series of works Confronting Vegetal Otherness has been realized within the European project Trust Me, I’m an Artist(http://trustmeimanartist.eu/) and produced by Kapelica Gallery / Kersnikova Institute with support of the European Union – Creative Europe, Leonardo da Vinci LLP, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana – Department for Culture and the Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst.
becoming.a(thing) project has been realized within the European project Future Emerging Art and Technology (FEAT) www.featart.eu.